Pragmatism approaches the problem of knowing through a commitment to diagnostic strategies that offer tentative answers to the vexing question of "why." When we can answer the "why question" we are on our way to explanation. But all answers are provisional--fallible. Beliefs are rules for action, and so pragmatism asks us to find reasons for holding particular beliefs, and it asks us to be open to reasons why those beliefs may, on further reflection, be open to yet further doubt. Pragmatism turned the positivist's world upside down by refusing to entertain the possibility that human agency, even with elaborate training and great practice, could defeat a world of indeterminacy. The modernist quest for assured rationality and abiding truth in the world is a chimera. Rather, pragmatists take the world as it seems to be and offer coping strategies that dispense with willful deceit. That is, pragmatism is concerned with mastering a complex world. Pragmatism is realistic in its acknowledgement of an opaque world, and it is mature in its epistemological ambitions and promises. Pragmatism replaces the arrogance of modernism with the cautious discernment of one who is deeply cognizant of an unruly world, yet intent on working out reasonable beliefs about that world.
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